Asia-Pacific, Pakistan

Angels of Death: A Family of Executioners

Executioners are not something we hear about anymore. In Islam, Malak-Al-Maut is the name that is given to the angel of death who, according to what Islamic theologians say, was one of God’s most favorite angels. He was said to be loyal and was trusted with the task to separate souls from human bodies, something God only trusted him with, when the right time would come for any human.

Executioners: Not a Tale but a Reality

For someone who has grown up in Pakistan like I have, this is not a story that is told to generate fear. It is a story that is told as an active part of Islam. They say that the angel of death appears to good people in a friendly form to ease their passing into the beyond, whereas to the sinners, this angel appears as a horrifying beast that rips their soul away like a piece of silk passing through a thorn branch.

Death Row Favoring Nation

Pakistan is a nation not entirely opposed to death row, in fact it encourages it most of the time for prisoners who commit heinous crimes. Since 2006, Sabir Masih has been one of the handful of executioners working on this gruesome task in the city of Lahore in Pakistan. Masih claims that he does not count the number of people on death row he has hung but if he were to give an estimate, he says it’d be around 250 since the day he started working for the state.

Executioners: Family Profession

Many families in Pakistan have professions picked out for them by their elders. If a great grandfather in a family was a lawyer then you could be positive that there are high chances that the rest of the generations would follow in the same footsteps.

The same is the case with Masih Sabir. In his family, he wasn’t the first to become an executioner and he surely will not be the last. Masih’s father, Sadiq Masih was an executioner for 40 years until his retirement in 2000. Most men of this family followed in the same footsteps along with Masih’s grandfather and brothers.

The history dates back so far that in 1979, it was Masih’s uncle Tara Masih who hung Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on death row who was the first elected prime minister of Pakistan. Due to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s popularity in the nation as a leader, Sabir’s father Sadiq Masih had refused to be the executioner on duty which is why Tara Masih had flown in to Lahore just for this job alone.

The 33-year-old Masih says that he always knew growing up that he would one day become an executioner for the state like all the men before him in his family did.

“I knew that this was a family profession.” – Sabir Masih

Executioners. Killers. Murderers.

Sabir was 22-years-old when he hung his first man on death row. This man had been convicted of murder in the first degree. Sabir says that his family faces a lot of hate from the masses since they say that it is a “family of death” but that doesn’t lead him away from the path he has chosen for himself. He says that while being called names like “murderer” and “killer” are a norm for men in his family, they are not killers but rather officers of the law. Sabir himself clarifies what differentiates him from the people he hangs. He says that murderers have a reason for what they do and they are driven by their own emotions. Murderers take life because they want to, whereas Sabir Masih takes lives under the eyes of law because he has to.

“I am killing people based on the law. The murderer has killed by their choice, but I am not killing by my own choice… I have not picked the convict to kill.” – Sabir Masih

This is precisely why Sabir Masih does not remember the names of the people he hangs, simply because he knows the world is better by being rid of them since the law is just.

“I don’t really think about it. You pull the lever, the man falls.” – Sabir Masih

Last year, Pakistan ranked 5th on the Amnesty International’s list of executing nations by putting 87 people on death row, most of whom were hung by Sabir Masih, the man who is being referred to in Pakistan as The Angel of Death.

About Maham Khan

Maham is a 22 year old Pakistani who is obsessed with pasta and Wonder Woman. She will be the voice of Pakistan in a place where it truly matters and bring light to matters nobody dares to speak about. Join her on this journey as we talk about issues that our modern world endures.

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